Quirky.com Turns Anyone Into a Product Designer

Quirky.com got a huge boost with $6 million in funds from venture capitalists on Wednesday.
Quirky.com got a huge boost with $6 million in funds from venture capitalists on Wednesday.

I know I have great product ideas. Heck, everyone does. That "aha!" flash of brilliance when you realize a soap dispenser should be combined with a paper towel rack? Or that we all really need an easy-to-access set of cooking utensils which click in and out of heat-proof slot system? Or a pooper scooper that doesn't require any bending, bowing, scraping or cleaning?

That brilliance of the masses is what startup Quirky.com is designed to capture, collate, ruminate and then turn into killer products. Twenty-something Founder Ben Kaufman calls it "Social Product Development." It's a flavor of the crowd sourcing boom, but one that looks more equitable and fun than the cookie-cutter "Design My Logo for $100" sites.

What might have seemed like a harebrained scheme a decade ago just got a huge boost with $6 million in funds from venture capitalists on Wednesday. Quirky's Series A funding round was headed by RRE Ventures, and included slugs of cash from Village Ventures, Contour Venture Partners, Lowercase Capital and a small group of angel investors.

Company Has Spawned 12 Products

Previously, Quirky had raised $1.6 million in seed capital from family and friends. The company has pumped out 12 products that are being sold on a global basis in short order and revenues are rising fast. Time to get Quirky?

Here's how Quirky works. Have a product idea? You can submit it to the Quirky community for $99. That idea then enters a competition with loads of other ideas to get "funded." Quirky members make suggestions, help with concept drawings and even banter about marketing strategies.

Where the rubber hits the road is actually commitments to buy the product. Ultimately, Quirky will only move forward once a set number of its own members have agreed to buy a product once it is produced.

Bulk of Revenues Go to Product's Owner

Quirky members who participate actively in the design voting and commenting process on a given product get a share of revenues from product sales once it is produced. Quirky also gets a take but the lionshare goes to the idea owner. It's a very neat way of monetizing collective brainpower and giving everyone a stake in the success of a project.

I joined Quirky several months ago, skeptical of the concept (underwater waffle iron, anyone?) but enthusiastic about the principal. In this era of "Make" mentality, shouldn't all our great ideas be marketable? Why should the Frog Design or IDEOs of the world be allowed to do all the fun invention and product design?

Right off the bat, I was surprised at how good some of the ideas were. Many were not at all fringe "As Seen on TV" types of offerings. One petitioner put forth an innovative shelving concept that appeared to improve on compact shelving offerings I had seen when shopping for bookcases to fill a small office space without breaking the bank.

A Much Improved Pooper Scooper

And that pooper scooper I mentioned? It's real and it looks pretty neat for anyone that has a dog. (Note to self -- hang one on the fence outside our house so that dude with the doberman gets the message and stops leaving smelly packages in our driveway).

I'd imagine with Quirky's success clone sites will emerge. And that's a good thing. Quirky has validated the inventor in all of us and made it both fun and accessible to pitch your idea. Someone might even get rich. It hasn't happened yet. But have I got a great idea to tell you about.

Originally published